Sex Pistols

Pretty Vacant

Song Review by

The Sex Pistols' third single was the first that managed to avoid getting banned in the U.K., and it was their only uncontested number one hit. It's also the song that makes plain the elephant in the room when it comes to The Sex Pistols: for all of Malcolm McLaren's hype and Jamie Reid's purposefully shocking graphics, The Sex Pistols were really a pop band at heart. Honestly, give "Pretty Vacant" a glossy Phil Wainman production to go with its chanting, shout-along chorus and instantly catchy opening guitar riff, and you would have a single by the Sweet. Or even (gasp) the Bay City Rollers! This is not a bad thing at all; "Pretty Vacant" has stood up better than most of The Sex Pistols' singles, which mostly sound kind of dated and strained with a few decades' hindsight, plus it puts the lie to McLaren's post-Pistols self-mythologizing -- they were, at heart, just another pop band, and a pretty good one at that.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols 1977 EMI / Virgin 3:17
Spunk: The Original 1977 Bootleg Album 1977 Castle Music Ltd. / Sanctuary Fontana 0:00
Flogging a Dead Horse 1980 EMI Music Distribution 3:18
No Image 1984
Various Artists
The Swindle Continues 1988 Restless Records 3:32
We Have Cum for Your Children 1988 Sanctuary 3:25
No Future UK? 1989 BMG / Castle Communications
Pirates of Destiny 1989 Creative Man / Ca 0:00
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Kiss This: The Best of the Sex Pistols 1992 EMI Music Distribution 3:15
In the Air Tonight: Virgin's Greatest Hits 1994
Various Artists
DA Music
Early Daze 1994 Sanctuary 3:27
Nice Enough to Eat [Receiver] 1994
Various Artists
Receiver 3:10
Pretty Vacant 1995 Receiver 3:35
Teenage Kicks: 46 Classic Punk & New Wave Tracks 1995
Various Artists
PolyGram 3:17
Best Rock Anthems in the World...Ever! 1996
Various Artists
Back & There Again 1997 Creative Man / Cargo 3:32
Archive 1997 Rialto 3:29
History of Punk 1997
Various Artists
Receiver 3:12
First Generation: Virgin 25 Years 1998
Various Artists
Virgin 3:18
Pretty Vacant: The Best of 1976 1999 Cleopatra 3:08
Personal Effects 1999 EMI Music Distribution 3:16
Sid Vicious Lives 1999 Dressed To Kill 2:57
The Filth and the Fury [Virgin] 2000
Original Soundtrack
Virgin 3:16
This Is Punk 2000
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:08
Greatest Hits of the 70's [Disky Box] 2000
Various Artists
Disky 3:16
The Legends Collection: Sex Pistols Collection 2001 Dressed To Kill / Legends Collection 2:57
Complete Collection 2001
Various Artists
Disky 3:16
There Is No Future 2001 Sanctuary / Trojan 3:32
The Sex Pistols Collection, Vol. 1 2001 Dressed To Kill 2:57
No Future UK?/Spunk 2002 Castle Music Ltd. 3:29
Jubilee (Best Of) 2002 Virgin 3:36
Sex Pistols [Box Set] 2002 EMI Music Distribution 3:53
Never Trust a Hippy Hippy
No Image Raw Power Records